Eco Friendly Shoes – What To Look For

Eco-Friendly Shoes
CC flickr photo courtesy of skippyjon

When I was a kid in the 70s, my mother showed me a sandal that she said was an “earth shoe.”  I had no idea what this meant, but it was a leather sandal with a strange high arch, and a big change from the high-heeled Candi’s she usually wore.  I don’t know what made that shoe an “earth shoe” but today I often think about my shoe purchases in regards to whether or not they are eco-friendly. Determining which shoes are the most eco-conscious is a complicated issue, and the answers aren’t often very clear. And let’s be honest… we all know fashion comes at a price.

How our products are made, where they are made, and what they are made of can all contribute damage to our environment.  When it comes to shoes, the issue is complicated because of the needs involved, including durability, comfort, and style.  For instance, there are many people concerned about the use of animal hides used in the making of a large majority of shoe wear, and yet the durable alternatives to leather are few, and quite costly. While natural, leather can also use toxic chemicals in the tanning and manufacturing process, such as chromium.

The cheaper alternatives often do not last and necessitate the use of harsh chemicals. Leather is a natural material, after all.  While vinyl (PVC) seems to be the next easiest choice, as it doesn’t include animal products during manufacturing, it does require the use of petroleum and produces toxic chemicals like dioxin.  Shoes are a necessity in our society.  So what choices do we have as both nature lovers and fashion mavens?

There are shoes on the market that do not use animal products, nor use harmful chemicals in the production process.  SIMPLE is a shoe company that puts the impact of their products on the environment above any other factor, and creates their footwear from all types of natural, non-animal or recycled materials.  There are soles made from recycled carpet padding and tires, and uppers made from certified organic cotton as well as reclaimed wool.  Most of the styles are casual, and are limited to sneakers, although there is a high, more stylish boot offered currently.  Patagonia also offers shoes similarly constructed from reused or organic origins, as does Teva.  Links to several companies making environmentally sound or fair trade shoes are:

Simple – www.simpleshoes.com

Patagonia – www.patagonia.com

Timberland – www.timberland.com

Merrell – www.Merrell.com

Teva – www.teva.com

Another great resource are online shoes stores that host many companies, like Planetshoe (check out their “Eco” category) and Zappos (filter by “Eco-Friendly” under “Features”), both of which offer eco-friendly and vegan shoes from many different retailers. The drawback to almost all types of eco-friendly shoe is that they look very casual.  This is tough for those who either are working in a professional field where dressier attire is expected, or for someone to whom style is very important.  For those people, there are a few other alternatives to consider.

One way to purchase shoes that is more earth-friendly than pulling the latest hot leather pump or wedge off the shelf at a department store is to choose a second-hand shoe.  While the feel of strapping on the hottest new look is momentarily satisfying, almost all trends are a recycling of something done before with a tweak here or there. So, searching the best consignment shops or even a good thrift store can result in finding a great pair of sexy heels without introducing any new waste or chemicals into our environment.

One last important idea to consider when making both environmentally better choices and craving that latest pair of hot shoes:  longevity. Grist.org, a green news source, cites how shoes generally have short life spans. This is largely due to not only how quickly fashion magazines fuel our desire for the next hottest look, but also how comforting it is for most women to shop for an item that almost always fits perfectly, unlike a pair of skinny jeans. Choosing a few really good pairs of shoes that are high-quality, durable, inherently stylish and that you will be happy wearing for many years, may be the greenest choice of all.

Truly Organic Kids Clothes: Where to Find


GOTS-certified logo
GOTS-Certified Logo

You’re probably wondering if buying organic kids clothes is better for your children. The answer is: it depends.

You may be surprised to learn that the current U.S. label of “organic” on clothing only refer to how the fabric was grown — it does not cover the processing and manufacturing that the fabrics undergo after harvest. The USDA  clearly states this on page 11 of the National Organic Program Final Rule [PDF].

So just because that cute onesie you bought for your baby says “made with 100% organic cotton” it does not mean it is nontoxic. Harsh chemicals can be used in the processing and dyeing of the clothing. While organic growing methods are clearly best for the environment, you’ll need to dig a little deeper to make sure the end product is also good for your family. There are several certifications out there that do cover the processing of fabrics. Look for the following when purchasing organic clothing and bedding for your family:

Clothesline users of the world, unite!

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Today’s Wall Street Journal writes about how the trend of using a clothesline for the eco-friendly reason of using less energy is running up against many homeowner association rules designed to keep a neighborhood looking “nice.”

The clothesline was once a ubiquitous part of the residential landscape. But as postwar Americans embraced labor-saving appliances, clotheslines came to be associated with people who couldn’t afford a dryer. Now they are a rarity, purged from the suburban landscape by legally enforceable development restrictions.

Nationwide, about 60 million people now live in about 300,000 “association governed” communities, most of which restrict outdoor laundry hanging, says Frank Rathbun, spokesman for the Community Associations Institute, an Alexandria, Va., group that lobbies on behalf of homeowners associations.

But the rules are costly to the environment — and to consumers — clothesline advocates argue. Clothes dryers account for 6% of total electricity consumed by U.S. households, third behind refrigerators and lighting, according to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey by the federal Energy Information Administration. It costs the typical household $80 a year to run a standard electric dryer, according to a calculation by E Source Cos., in Boulder, Colo., which advises businesses on reducing energy consumption.

Alexander Lee, founder of clothesline advocacy group Project Laundry List in Concord, N.H., says the clothesline movement is “an outgrowth of interest in what-can-I-do environmentalism.” Mr. Lee says he gets more and more email seeking advice on how to hang a clothesline despite neighborhood covenants restricting them.

Ten states, including Nevada and Wisconsin, limit homeowners associations’ ability to restrict the installation of solar-energy systems, or assign that power to local authorities, says Erik J.A. Swenson, a Washington, D.C.-based partner at law firm King & Spalding LLP, who has written about the policies. He says it’s unclear in most of these states whether clotheslines qualify as “solar” devices. Only the laws in Florida and Utah expressly include clotheslines.

One can only hope that parking an abandoned car on top of cinderblocks in the front yard never creates an environmental advantage, because I’m pretty sure that homeowner associations don’t go for that either.

For more information, visit the Project Laundry List site.

Hot Green Handbag

Practical environmentalists can declare their love for the Earth and for fashion following the U.S. release of British designer Anya Hindmarch’s “I’m not a plastic bag” bag.

This anti-excess statement is available online for $15 at www.anyahindmarch.co.uk, or at select Whole Foods stores on the East Coast.

A Today Show blogger reports that she talked with a couple girls who’d traveled to NYC from Taiwan to buy the bag.

Hmmm… flying to NYC from Taiwan to buy a plastic bag replacement? I’m not sure they were doing it for the Earth.

Nevertheless, replacing, reusing or recycling plastic bags is without a doubt good for the environment.

Levi’s Eco-Jeans

Here’s one for all you fashion nuts. Check out this article from the Brunei times about Levi’s new line of eco-friendly jeans. Here’s what they are all about:

The trousers are made with completely organic materials on a production line that uses sustainable production processes.

“It’s not only organic fabric but the other components are also organic; the finish we use is totally organic too,” says Geert Peeters, the vice-president of product management.

“The whole process of how the jeans are made is also organic.”